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Abel to Yzerman

Causing The Least Amount of Damage

Aaron Downey will beat the hell out of you, but apparently can’t hit Keith Tkachuk in the ass with a puck from four feet away.  Brent Sopel can blast a puck by the best goalies in the league, but his efforts in TC showed us he’ll just as likely give it away quicker than Bubba’s sister at a family reunion.  Igor Grigorenko has all sorts of talent and “hockey sense” but can’t skate for twenty seconds without pulling out the puffer. 

And so it looks like Uncles Kenny and Mikey have to make a few decisions based on potential and who’s going to hurt the team the least.

Those are the three most intriguing names being bantered about as possible Wings, but their strengths may not be valid enough to overcome their weaknesses.

Babcock played Sopel with Lidstrom a good bit in TC.  Bruce MacLeod sees that as a sign that he’s being given every chance to succeed.  Can’t argue with that, but what player wouldn’t look very good with Lidstrom?  If the Wings really wanted to see what kind of defensive skills he has, it seems a more logical place to view him would be beside Lilja.  Perhaps a frightening experience for any coach, but an eye opener. 

“Obviously, he has offensive ability,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock of Sopel. “What we need to see from him is a safe, steady guy who makes good decisions with the puck and chips in offensively when he gets an opportunity. We’re an offensive team in a lot of ways, but we don’t take risks.”

A few things have proven Sopel’s not that safe, steady guy.  First, and most obviously, he doesn’t have a frigging job.  That, in itself, says a lot.  But, if he’s that good offensively a move Holland made over the summer may just be the best thing that’s happened to Brent Sopel. I’m talking about Brian Rafalski.  Despite reports that Babcock may be planning to pair those two (Lids/Rafalski) up, he may be going in a different direction if he keeps Sopel.

Rafalski, by all accounts, is as responsible as Lidstrom defensively. I didn’t say as talented, just the same mindset.  If Sopel plays with Lidstrom, and Rafalski shifts to the second pairing to bail out Kronwall, disaster may be averted.

And so, I’ll bet Sopel stays.

Aaraon Downey.  You have to know Mike Babcock likes him because Babcock probably watches UFA more than he does hockey.  His eyes glaze when the gloves drop and something tells me he wouldn’t mind seeing a few more Wings throw some from time to time.  The question is, of course, do the Wings have enough offensive firepower to sacrifice a skater for a brawler? 


“I just got to go out there and bang, crash, create energy and have a willingness to stick up for my teammates,’’ Downey said. “I definitely have a reputation around the league to do that. If I can just show them I’m 100 percent healthy and can go out there and do that, hopefully I can earn a spot.’‘

“We’ll see if he can play with enough tempo to play for us,’’ Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If you have someone to keep the flies off (an enforcer) that would be great. In saying that, you got to be able to play. We want to play four lines, you have to be able to contribute.’‘

Do you keep Downey in reserve for certain teams? Calgary, San Jose, the poultry?  Unfortunately the teams who have the ability to pound us also have some offense the Wings may have to match.  And…Detroit hung physically tough with them in the playoffs last year without a player like Downey there to keep certain manners in check.  Plus, Dallas Drake is along for the ride now.

Sorry, but nope. Don’t see Downey making the club because…

...Meech is going to stay and, yeah, I think Grigorenko will too.  And if not Grigorenko, then Ellis.  And if not Ellis, then I’ve got a hunch the Nouvel kid Mursak may be a dark horse.


Filed in: | Abel to Yzerman | Permalink
  Tags: babcock, downey, grigorenko, holland, rafalski, sopel


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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com

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